In Their Own Words



Oral histories are a rich source of material for the study of working-class history. Women war workers in Birmingham tell their stories.

The Sound Archive at Birmingham Museums Trust contains many testimonies from working women who remember both world wars. For example:

We heard of the munitions factory being built at Water Orton, a grenade-filling factory, and I thought I might just as well go and try and do something for the country and I went and of course they said that ‘yes, you could start straight away’, which I did. We were working with TNT powder, a horrible yellow powder it was.

Edith Warwood (née Pittaway) recalls leaving dressmaking at home to work at a munitions factory at Water Orton during the First World War:

[W]e were provided with noninflammable undercoat underneath, over which we wore a khaki overall and we also wore mob caps because we were warned that TNT powder would turn our skin yellow, and we hadn’t been working many days in the factory before we could see this yellow developing in hands and faces and it didn’t distress us, really, we thought it would be something perhaps to be proud of.

KEYWORDS: Women, Work, World War I, World War 2, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, BMAG

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